The Friends of the St Croix Wetland Management District sponsored a winter ecology walk on Oak Ridge Waterfowl Production Area on Jan. 15.

Oak Ridge WPA is a unique wetland located a couple of miles east of Star Prairie on the south side of County Highway H.

More than 40 people participated in the outing including a number of kids who walked and at times took advantage of sled rides being pulled by some of the adults. Some of the adults also wore snowshoes while others walked the plowed walking trail at a leisurely pace.

Wildlife Biologists Jim Riemer and Chris Trosen led the group on the 1.8-mile guided tour, which included numerous stops pointing out various highlights of the area.

Tracks left by passing animals were identified in the freshly fallen snow. Plants that provide winter food sources for local birds and the vegetation and trees that make up the landscape of the WPA were identified.

Geological features left by the last glacier formed the backdrop of the walk and an eagle nest, muskrat house and numerous other interesting wildlife settings were observed as the group progressed through prairie, woodlands and along the edge of Oakridge Lake. Oak savannah restoration, invasive species control and other activities being performed on the land by the St Croix Wetland Management District were also pointed out.

The outing culminated with a stop by a small cabin owned by local resident, Warren Irle, where Warren and his wife, Missy, provided hot chocolate, homemade cookies and a chance to talk with the biologists around an open fire. A great time was had by all.

Another ecology walk is being planned this spring by the FSCWMD on an area WPA. These walks will continue over the year to highlight seasonal changes and optimize wildlife and vegetative observation and educational opportunities. Stay tuned.

Hunter education

This class is required for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1973 who wishes to secure a hunting license in Wisconsin. Students should be 12 years of age before Dec. 31, 2011. Pre-registration is required with students taken in order of registration. The class size is limited to the first 60 applicants.

The first class is Monday, Feb. 7, starting at 7 p.m. at the New Richmond National Guard Armory, 1245 Wall St. in New Richmond. Classes will be held on Monday and Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. and ends on March 28. No classes are scheduled on Feb. 10, 14, 17 and March 7 and 10.

A range day will also be held on Saturday, March 19, from 8 a.m. until noon at the Willow River Rod and Gun Club. All students must have a Wisconsin DNR Customer ID# and can be acquired by calling 1-888-936-7463.

Students in need of special accommodations are asked to call prior to the first class. For more information contact Ron Roettger at 715-248-3883.

Bridge update

A few months ago I wrote about the pros of building a new bridge across the St. Croix River at Stillwater. Recently several issues have come to the forefront and there is now a concerted effort to get it built.

It is really hard to believe that with all the positive support for the bridge, an environmental group could be so short sighted and have the misguided power to again move to stop the effort. These are also the same people that have delayed the delisting of the gray wolf and in doing so are preventing the proper management that this magnificent animal deserves. I'll comment more on the wolf issue in another column.

Stillwater's City Council recently stated in the papers and on the radio that they support the building of the new bridge and have even considered closing the old lift bridge to get their point across. They said that in the periods where the bridge was closed for repairs, downtown business increased dramatically. The City of Stillwater has had to foot the bill for all too many years in not having the new bridge built.

Another turn about was the suggestion that a toll bridge be built. What a disaster that would be! I feel violated every time I have to stop at a toll booth in Illinois as I drive on the highway 90/94 freeway system through that state. The toll bridge concept should definitely not fly.

Any environmental downside to the building of the new bridge pales in comparison to the wasted resources in time, money and environmental impact that is spent waiting for extended periods to get across the lift bridge.

Perhaps the "do-gooder group" and their supporters should be made to sit in the long lines waiting to pass through downtown Stillwater producing and sucking toxic exhaust fumes. That might make them change their minds.

They should also be made to come up with the extra millions of dollars needed to now build the new bridge over what it would have cost so many years ago.